On the second day of his testimony at the trial of four indictees charged with crimes committed in Bugojno, Selmo Cikotic says he conceded responsibility for prisoners-of-war to the civil authorities in Bugojno, "as per an instruction issued by General Rasim Delic".
"In August 1993 General Rasim Delic visited the Operational Group Headquarters and said I should take care of military operations while the state bodies, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the State Exchange Commission, should take care of prisoners-of-war.
"There were several hundred such prisoners in Bugojno at the time. After having received the instruction, I conceded the care of those prisoners to the mentioned bodies," Selmo Cikotic said, answering questions from the State Prosecutor during cross-examination.
Rasim Delic, former Commander of the Main Headquarters with the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was sentenced, by a first instance verdict pronounced by the Hague Tribunal, to three years in prison for crimes committed in central Bosnia. Delic died on April 16, 2010, before the pronouncement of a second instance verdict.
Cikotic, former Commander of the Western Operational Group based in Bugojno and current Minister of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, testified for the Defence of Enes Handzic. Handzic, Nisvet Gasal, Musajb Kukavica and Senad Dautovic, who are charged with crimes committed against Croat civilians who were detained in various buildings in the Bugojno area during 1993 and 1994.
The Prosecution considers that Gasal was Manager and Kukavica was Commander of Guards in "Iskra" stadium detention camp, in which about 300 civilians were detained in inhumane conditions, mistreated and taken to other locations to perform forced labour, while some of them were killed.
The Prosecution charges Handzic, former Assistant Chief for Security with the 307th Motorized Brigade with the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Dautovic, former Chief of the Public Safety Station in Bugojno, with helping to plan and execute the capture of civilians in Bugojno.
During Cikotic's examination, Trial Chamber member Darko Samardzic read the witness part of the indictment, alleging that Handzic and Dautovic participated in a joint criminal enterprise, in collaboration with civil and military authorities in Bugojno, including, among others, the Western Operational Group, asking him if he felt responsible for this.
"I can really not presume that units of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina conducted any kind of joint criminal enterprise or had any plans or intentions in that sense. To the contrary, we made concessions in order to avoid conflicts," Cikotic said. He was accompanied in court by a legal advisor to ensure that his testimony does not make him liable to criminal prosecution.
The Trial Chamber asked the witness about the document presented in court at the previous hearing, which alleged that Cikotic asked the Commander of the Third Corps to allow some prisoners to be taken to Gornji Vakuf to perform some work in September 1993.
Cikotic said several times that this was not an order, since the document "does not contain all the elements" to qualify as an order. However, he explained that, irrespective of the type of document, "it still implied a certain obligation".
The witness did not want to say why he submitted the document after having received "the instruction from Rasim Delic", saying that prisoners-of-war were not under the responsibility of military bodies. He did not know whether the persons who had received the document had to execute it.
The trial is due to continue on May 5, 2010.
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